Charleston is one of the loveliest cities in the country, despite having weathered great fires, earthquakes, epidemics, civil war, and a devastating hurricane. It is consistently classed among the most elegant and picturesque cities nationwide.
The port of Charleston is the oldest city in the state, sat on the peninsula separated by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. A large downtown district boasts hundreds of preserved and restored buildings built over brick and cobblestone streets, housing old-fashioned inns, antique shops, and pubs.
Narrow houses festooned with wrought-iron balconies and wooden shutters line the streets, and ornate gates enclose pretty gardens and shaded porches. Many of its double-storey houses are authentically furnished museums that once belonged to wealthy colonial merchants, while many are still the beautiful private homes of wealthy residents.
The city started as an important seaport serving the rice and cotton plantations throughout the region. It was a major slave-trading centre with about a third of America's slaves being bought and sold at the riverfront market.
Populated by ancestors of West African slaves, the Gullah culture of the islands has a tangible presence. This is especially evident at the Old City Market that vibrates with the humming of traditional spirituals, local vendors, iron makers, basket ladies, and distinctive Gullah dialects.